Category Archives: rants + outrages

stuff I am upset about. Usually political

celebrity, status and consent. Complexity and toxicity.

What struck me as I followed (in a desultory and not overly committed way), the recent Canadian trial where a well-known celebrity was accused by women with whom he had had brief relationships, of brutal violent behaviour, was that almost every woman certainly for my generation, recognized this pattern.

If it did not happen to us personally, we have all known female friends who have, in confidence and clearly with a deep sense of shame (shame, incredibly, for themselves), who experienced something similar. Being invited out by a man to whom she was attracted, and the date going badly wrong.

This is not about ‘men’ and ‘male entitlement’ really. Quite honestly, most guys are fundamentally decent, and they treat women perfectly fine.  But in cases such as this one, the man behaved in a way that by anybody’s set of standards is absolutely brutish.

Imagine being asked out by somebody, going out on a date, getting romantic and then just at the most intimate moment the man pulls back and punches you in the head.

I actually really cannot imagine this, yet I actually have heard stories similar to this from people I know and trust. Sudden inexplicable violence accompanied, bizarrely, by endearments alternating with threats. A strange, toxic combination. How is anybody supposed to know how to deal with that? It is confusing, and distressing. Especially when the perpetrator acts as though it is perfectly normal. The women who confided similar stories to me were full of self-doubt. ‘Were they imagining it? Did they somehow caused this behaviour? Is it really that bad? Maybe that was just an aberration because actually in all well other respects he’s a really nice guy.’

When I heard stories like that from friends, the only advice I could really gave was to not see the guy again; in most cases they followed that advice and it was all forgotten; quite often the information about the guy’s behaviour was secretly shared among women and we just hoped that the guy would somehow stop doing it, or  – or what?

This case is complicated by the involvement of a high status individual, in this case a celebrity. The attraction of high status and celebrity cannot be discounted. We are exhorted on a constant basis to admire celebrities, to look up to them and to find them  much more desirable (including sexually desirable) than ‘civilians’.

I have to be really clear about this because it’s really important. We cannot discount the importance of status in this and similar cases. By the way I’m not conflating status with celebrity. Celebrities have fame, but not necessarily status, and this is particularly true of females. Status is something that society very infrequently gives to women. The celebrity in this case had high status, the imprimatur of the national broadcasting agency (which as we’ve seen in the UK, gives quite a lot of impunity).

The status thing also goes a long long way to explain why the women did have contact with the perp after the events. Disbelief is one factor (“did it really happen?”). Another is, “did I provoke him in some way?” Still another, most common,  is “I must have given him the impression I was up for  it – even if I wasn’t, so it’s my fault.” All of this underpinned by the culturally-reinforced belief that “he’s a celebrity/high status individual, higher status than me , stronger than me so he is by definition in the right.”

Status or celebrity also seems like a kind of insurance policy: a person wouldn’t really behave extremely badly because they’re so famous and everybody would know. Surely by now we know that’s really not true at all. Even after this trial, and thinking back on similar trials, there are still plenty of people out there who are willing to support and stand by a high status perpetrator. I’m thinking of Mike Tyson, William Burroughs, Bertrand Cantat and others, all fully rehabilitated, their victims forgotten. *

Unfortunately the law is a blunt instrument and is really incapable of dealing adequately with complicated situations such as this one. I suppose probably the outcome we have is the only one that could’ve been expected under the circumstances. Although not criminally convicted, the celebrity in this instance has been exposed as a deeply brutish individual who can no longer be considered fit as a public persona. Who wants to hear his voice on radio or see his face on the television screens ever again? Who would consent to being interviewed by him? Not an awful lot of people I imagine.

I really hope that the case makes everybody think.

Women, we really need to examine much more deeply the way in which we are attracted to high status individuals. This is something deeply embedded in the female psyche, and I’ve seen it and even experienced it myself (luckily at a remove). I’m thinking of women having crushes on their professors, bosses and so on.   This makes us extremely vulnerable. We have to start fundamentally accepting that we have to judge and value people purely as individuals and leave their status out of it completely.I’m not going to pretend that this would be easy. We exist in quite a toxic climate of traditional attitudes towards status and its connection with patriarchy, and a wholesale mass worship of celebrity. But then we don’t have to behave like sheep. We can think for ourselves.

Most importantly, we also collectively need to think about how abuse and assault and sexual assault is addressed broadly within society. What is consent? How do we measure it? What is consent IN sex, not just consent TO sex? When is sexual violence okay? In this case there does not seem to have been clear indicators that violence in sex was to be on offer. Does that then mean that, by consenting to sex, the women were consenting to violence in the bedroom? At this point we probably need to have some guidance from the BDSM community.

Unfortunately sex education never includes a discussion of the specificities that might come up in sexual activity. Just yesterday I read about an evangelical preacher who took it upon himself to spank the (female of course) members of his congregation as part of their religious practice. Although I laughed like a drain at the story, seeing it as evidence of religious hypocrisy, when I thought back on it, I thought it really disturbing. Did they freely consent to this, or were they brainwashed by a high status  person (in their community)  to accept it?

Nobody, not a male or female, gets properly educated in sex education about anything other than penetrative sex, avoiding sexual diseases and pregnancy. We don’t know how to talk about it, we don’t know how to explore it in a safe way, we don’t know how to refuse and reject it firmly (and with the backing of the law). Frankly, if somebody punches me in the face they’ve assaulted me. The fact that they did it while we were about to have sex doesn’t actually negate the fact of the assault. Yet apparently maybe it does. If the perpetrator says that I consented.

It’s interesting because the idea of consent in assaults outside of the bedroom doesn’t ever really come up. In these  I can’t remember ever hearing in any other context that  “it was OK because the victim was fine with being punched in the face.”** I suppose one of the problems is that the cases weren’t ‘sexual’ assault in the usual sense, they were regular old assault that took place during consensual sex and which the perpetrator justified as being part of  the sex.

Which makes those who are championing the accused need to take stock. How about if your sister, daughter or friend came to you and said “I was making out with this guy and he suddenly just hauled back and punched me in the face” – how would you feel? What would you say – “Oh that’s OK; it’s OK to be punched in the face if you agree to make out with the guy, because that’s just “rough sex” and any guy is entitled to expect that.” No you wouldn’t. You’d be appalled.
So, food for thought. I do think that it’s great that these things are starting to come out to the open and giving us a way to getting to talk about them. I do think  the recent exposure of celebrities at the BBC has been good. I think that the exposure of this celebrity at the CBC is good. There’s no point  wasting our energy on slagging the judge or talking about whether or not the victim’s testimony was credible. I’ve heard too many similar stories. It is credible – totally credible, sadly familiar and deeply depressing – but it doesn’t really fit with the narrow requirements of a legal case. So let’s move on from that and move forward and think about what really matters here – the impunity given to high status person and the lack of clarity about ‘consent’ – and maybe try to do something about it

 

  • Notice how, despite being convicted,  they are more attractive than Jimmy Saville or Rolf Harris? Maybe because they abused adult ‘consenting’ women?

    I’m also thinking about the much-feted national-treasure rock star who sexually used my 13 year old friend; the predatory guys in bands or band management; the charismatic professor. NOT ONE OF WHOM HAS EVEN BEEN CRITICISED, NEVER MIND PROSECUTED. And they will never be. Because their behaviour was fully approved by everyone by the sanctity of  status. They just did what society  told them they were entitled to.

** people sometimes refuse to press charges, but there is no discourse of  “permissible assault” – outside of ritualised sport of course!

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horror show

I walk down the Strand and I find people wrapped in sleeping bags and blankets, invisible and unwanted. I’m already so cold I want to cry, yet I have a house to go home to. I hurry home, angry at what I’ve seen but I don’t know what to do.
I get home and turn on the TV and I see hundreds, thousands maybe even millions, huddling in the open air, with nowhere to go, unwanted and reviled.
Then I see well-fed shiny faced people come on TV and slander these people as terrorists, ‘economic migrants’ (a recently made-up term of extreme perniciousness) and warn us of their dangerousness. Apparently I will never be raped unless I come into contact with one of them. Apparently I will always have a good job unless ‘they’ dare to arrive. Apparently ‘they’ strain my housing and health care.

Why housing and health care should be so rationed is never explained.

Society is sick, and we are part of this vile disease.

am I the only one who is horrified?

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The black subject: ancient to modern

The black subject: ancient to modern
Tate Britain Saturday 21st of February

This symposium, which in only one day tried to cover the appearance of the black subject in art from ancient times up to modernism, was a gathering together of interesting recent research, given by compelling speakers. It is unusual for me to attend a symposium or conference and not feel bored at least part of the time. I am happy to report that at no point did I find myself thinking “why on earth did they put that on for/” or “who is this person and how can they have the nerve to stand there talking like this?” No, this was a timely, well-organized and utterly fascinating day.

Part of the appeal was just the absolute necessity of this discourse. I have written on a number of occasions* about the invisibility of the non-white artist, and the working-class artist, but I haven’t really talked much about the invisibility of the nonwhite subject. Actually, it was exactly this issue that brought the whole problem to my attention: the invisibility of nonwhite subjects in paintings. I wondered why, despite the plethora of images of black subject in advertising, when it comes to fine art, contemporary artists don’t go there. Then I realized that that’s not it: the problem rather is that the contemporary artists who do make those pictures are much less visible than white artists.

banana

A large part of the symposium was dedicated to “finding the black face” in art history. Although this might sound a bit odd, I believe that it’s a necessary act, and one that really needs to be done more. And when I say done more, I mean addressed within the education / Museum situation. For example, in the late medieval and early Renasissance, it was common for at least one of the Magi to be depicted as a black person. Why not actually draw attention to this and make it talking point within a museum display? There are many depictions of white people with black servants, but this offers a possibility to broaden out the art historical discussion. This point was made by the curator Jan Marsh, who helpfully provided a useful list of images of paintings of Black subjects in British art institutions.

DIDO ELIZABETH BELLE, SUBJECT OF AMMA ASSANTE’S DRAMA ‘BELLE’

I think at the root of it all is probably the fact that we still labor under a misconception which probably comes out of the 18th century. The 18th century saw the rise of industrial capitalism, of which slavery was the first development, fueling the money that was then available to build factories and develop technology. This obviously meant that the black population of Britain, particularly port cities would’ve increased and the availability of black servants would’ve increased also. Hence the depictions in art.

The 18th century also gives us something else: a kind of whitewashing of the history of the ancient world. Thanks to the Hellenistic endeavors of Johann Winckelmann, we have a picture of the ancient world which is largely white, as white as the marble statues and temples of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Except that this is not true at all. This whitewashing of the ancient world, extends quite laughably to our visual image of it, the white marble image of Aryan perfection. Except that we actually know now that the ancients painted their statuary and all of their temples. I refer you to the brilliant book Chromophobia by David Batchelor for more on this classical legacy.

The Greeks did have a concept of barbarians and Greeks, but this is not based on race. The Romans, on the other hand, didn’t have any racial ideas whatsoever. Their distinction was whether you were Roman citizen or not, and whether you were free or not. Once you had freedom, it didn’t matter what color you were. Roman hierarchy was not racially based. Going along with that was the fact that the and Roman world, the Mediterranean, was conceived as being the entire Mediterranean, not just the North Mediterranean. The ancient world included Africa. People from Africa, certainly North Africa and also Ethiopia, existed all over the ancient world, traveling, trading, working, fighting. Graffiti from Egyptian soldiers sent to man Hadrian’s Wall attests to their disgust at British weather. Some things will never change.

And there are some ancient works of art which never get mentioned at all, such as the marvelous, splendidly realistic Fayuum portraits made in Roman Egypt. These were funeral portraits, made during a person’s life, to be used in attached to the sarcophagus after death. Recent scientific analysis has proven that the portraits, which show dark eyed, dark skinned people, appear to be of ethnic Egyptians, not white transplanted ‘Romans’. Once again, the concept of ‘Roman’ is not racial. And those portraits would have been made by Egyptians.

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However, once we have a concept of the ‘wonderfully white’ ancient world, and the Europe sanitized of all nonwhite inhabitants, we then get a completely different perspective on the reality of black presence in Europe. Yet, any kind of historical sense makes it clear that could never have possibly been true. Even a casual glimpse at trading patterns across Europe would make it clear that there was a constant two-way traffic between North Africa the Middle East and much further beyond. It is probably true that, then as now, urban areas were more diverse than rural areas, although even that may not be the case. William Mulready’s 1835 painting The Toy Seller shows a black peddler selling toys to a white mother. Although we can’t take the painting as any kind of documentary piece, it does seem to indicate that the rural world was not quite as ‘bleached’ as we pretend.

Of course, the first thing we have to admit is that the actuality of slavery, forced us into a black and white thought dichotomy. The dichotomy of black / white, dark / light existed probably forever, but was not necessarily attributed to human beings. Because in the Mediterranean region and Persia (where Manichean beliefs about dark and light developed out of Zoroastranaism) people usually aren’t specifically black or specifically white, but have different degrees of pigmentation.

So, having spotted the black faces in the history of European art, what next? Actually, the answer was provided right at the very beginning of the symposium. The artist Kimathi Donkor discussed his own work as a painter, which interrogates mis/representations of black subjects in Western art history. His current research is on the the representation of Andromeda (according to Ovid’s story, an Ethiopian princess) who is usually portrayed as white. What’s really important about Donkor’s work is that he’s one of the few recognized figurative painters active in Britain today who portrays black subjects.  Yes, that’s exactly what I said: one of the few. I became familiar with his work Toussaint L’Ouverture at Bedourete, a powerful and strongly cinematic depiction of the Haitian revolutionary hero. I was really impressed with this painting, a remarkable piece in the grand tradition of history painting and, I think, a very important work.

One of the problems with art history, of course, is that with very few exceptions such as H.O. Tanner,  the one doing the representing is white. It’s only in the 20th century that we start to see a trickle of representing being done by black artists. But even those are largely invisible in terms of European modernism. One of the most stimulating presentations, which is saying something in a day full of stimulating presentations, was by Prof. Partha Mitter. Discussing the work of Jamani Roy. I didn’t know anything about Roy before but what Mitter talked about was the idea of alternative modernisms. I’ve always been interested in this, the idea that modernism has been interpreted purely from Eurocentric perspective, which if you think about it is absolutely ridiculous. Especially when you think about how the architects of modernism were themselves completely influenced by Eastern philosophies; one of the things most noticeable in the recent Matisse exhibition was how influenced Matisse himself was by Moroccan visual culture. This limited approach to something as universal as art-making leaves out Egyptian modernism for example, as well as the whole of Latin America, Africa and Japan. The art market may reward the Eurocentric interpretation of modernism, but why should we?

The symposium didn’t really address the subject which I left wondering about, which is how to get all of this fantastic research into the broader public discourse. Where are the art history television programs that present this art history? Where are the non-white artists in the major prizes, and television portraits such as “what artists do all day”?

It is necessary, but not enough simply to spot the presence of black people in art history. We need to see them in contemporary art as well. We need to encourage and support artists who want to depict their reality, black subjects. Because these black subjects are part of our reality. The faces of our history, our neighbors, our friends, our families. Donkor’s work is significant and necessary, as is the work of artists such as my colleague, the London-based Egyptian painter Nazir Tanbouli.

The commercial demands of the art market does not seem to be interested, which is their prerogative. After all, they’re mainly interested in buying and selling, whether it’s arms or paintings. But once again, I have to say that we need to examine how and why the criteria of the art market is so accepted completely uncritically, not only by our media but sadly, also by the curators and critics, and those who are supposed to be nurturing our art tradition and building our artistic legacy.

—————

presenters were:

Kimathi Donkor, Michael Ohajuru,  Temi Odumosu, S.I. Martin,  Michael Fisher, Caroline Bressey, Florian Stadtler, Jan Marsh, Gemma Romain, Roshan McClenahan and Partha Mitter,  hosted by David Dibosa  and Sonia Dyer.

 

* Previous articles I wrote on this:

https://blog.gillianmciver.org/2015/02/10/another-circus-of-the-elite-or-the-whitewashing-of-a-nations-culture/

Art and Invisibility

Dis-membered from the Art World

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is it my imagination or …?

Every place that used to be something or offer something has turned into a place for swilling endlessly.
The bookshop now serves food. The library has a cafe; in fact the cafe is much busier than the library. The urban garden does coffee and sandwiches. So does the supermarket just in case while you are shopping for food you are overcome by hunger and need to eat.
Even the bicycle repair place is also a coffee shop.

WHY?

What is going on? Why is every second shop a restaurant or café? Some streets, such as Broadway Market, used to have actual shops, but now it is just one whole street of food (with 3 bookshops which, so far anyway, mercifully don’t serve food).
Why do people eat all day long, even in the street? Can nobody just live for a few hours without grub?

I mean, for sure sometimes you do have to grab a bite when you’re out all day long, but I can’t understand why and how, overnight a hardware store for instance shuts down, then in 24 hours it becomes a café and is immediately full of people all stuffing themselves like they have never had access to food before.
It’s not like people are using the cafés in the old-school way, to meet with friends and have, like Surrealist meetings like Andre Breton used to in the Café Cyrano, or Sartre and de Beauvoir in the Deux Magots. No they are just sitting there alone swilling very expensive coffee and chunks of cake bathed in the blue glow of their Macbook Pros.
It’s all a bit – well, not depressing exactly, but perhaps dispiriting.

Lame.

Swill swill swill, nothing else to do.

2013-02-12 15.35.50cuppa

you could just wait till you get home 🙂

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another circus of the elite – or, the whitewashing of a nation’s culture

“I asked myself if it’s fair to ask the arts to deliver more on the diversity front than business or politics or journalism – sectors where the situation is still pretty grim.  … Why does any of this matter? Because it is through the media, through movies, TV and games that we see the world and we see ourselves. Or would like to”.

Suzanne Moore on the BAFTA awards and the ‘whitewashing’ of British culture

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/09/baftas-tokenism-ethnic-minorities-working-class

what Suzanne says here chimes with what I have been saying about the art world. it’s as if culture is being redefined solely in the image of the elite and the rest of us are passively accepting it. That we want to enjoy entertainment made by rich white folk and that’s all. Is that true??

viz: my recent blog posts

> diet tip#1 regurgitatye breakfast

> art and invisibility

> Dis-membered from the art world

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‘unavailable’ again (damn it)

I am really wondering – and  not for the first time – what on earth is the point of London having any theater reviews whatsoever. Because by the time the review appears in print, the well reviewed show has long been sold out. Unless you have a membership to a theater organization, you will not even know what the season’s schedule is. Most of us don’t have season tickets were memberships, because they are very expensive.
I will make one exception – I have a season ticket to the fantastic Arcola theater in Dalston, which continually programs excellent theater pieces; last year’s waiting for Godot was a standout. Arcola also do a great deal of outreach work and have built their reputation over the last  decade and a half from the ground up
But to be completely honest, the capital’s principal subsidized theaters are well out of the reach of the majority of the population who are occasional theatergoers, or even possibly potential theatergoers who have not yet taken the opportunity. It is just far too difficult to get tickets for the plays which are considered to be the most excellent.
It is probably not the best way to woo new audiences.

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The necessity and value of defending social security

I rarely if ever share videos on my blog since I’m mainly about writing but today i just have to share this. It is a video of Bette Reed explaining in the most clear and articulate way, what social security is for and how it is essential for women.

We are in an age when ‘feminists’ like to debate the political activism of pole dancing, and admire pop stars (a few months ago I heard  Radio 4 broadcast a debate on the feminism of Beyonce, 4 women and a man were on, and sad to say, only the man made a peck of sense!!)

Today’s self-described feminists like to claim that “feminism is about doing what ever you want” [note: no, it f***ing ISN’T]  and this is bloody sad.

Here is Bette Reed, the true voice of feminism, a  voice we should listen to, the voice of women’s experience. Feminism is Bette Reed explaining how women’s economic position is structurally restricted from the start, and – if we actually want to have some semblance of civil society – why we need to defend social security. Though the video is from Seattle Washington, what she says resonates to every community across the globe. Female disadvantage is structured into the economic system. And we can fight it.

In these disgusting ‘austerity’ times when the rich and their mainstream media mouthpieces rape us daily by trying to convince us that we don’t need, or are not entitled to, basic sustenance, it is so good to hear the voice of clarity.

(I got this video from Bette Reed’s daughter, a friend of mine from way back. Thanks Katherine!)

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DIET TIP #1 Regurgitate Breakfast.

This will do the trick. What money can do for YOU. “Banker’s wife to singer [sic]”  Read her inane comments and spew away.

However don’t reread it cos you might spew up lunch and dinner too and then die. I had to follow this up and I watched the video of her ‘song’ which is a whining whinge about how awful ‘men’ are … ‘sung’ in the kind of breathy little voice that untrained minor-talented school choir girls have.

Absolutely an insult to the art form of music and that it’s even  featured in the press shows how CRONYISM is in full swing. Although to be fair there is a faint tang of dry skepticism in this Standard article.

By the way her brother is the cod philosopher Alain de Botton, who is to philosophy what cheez wiz is to fromage. How can one family produce two pastiches? I mean, you’ve got philosophers, and you’ve got singers, but these 2 are neither , just pastiches of each. Weird.

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a white poppy for today

half-wreath-rToday is Armistice Day, also known as Remembrance Day, and it is the day which was set aside on the memory of those who died in the first world war. It is also used to honor those who died in the second world war and subsequent wars, because unfortunately, WW1 led fairly directly to these other wars. The first world war was a dreadful imperialist war that not only that ravaged the northern European landscape, and destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives, but also dragged huge numbers of people from around the colonial empires into the fray where they lost their lives. If we can concede that the Europeans who fought in the war perhaps did so to defend their home soil, which is understandable, we cannot see the sacrifice of the lives of the colonized is anything but a dreadful, pointless, meaningless and utterly cruel waste.

When we think of World War I we think of Flanders fields, the poppies blowing in the breeze and white crosses. I’ve never seen it, but it’s a poetic image, which brings tears to the eyes. However, what we often don’t remember is how many European and colonial soldiers’ bones lie at the bottom of the Mediterranean, in the sands of North Africa and litter the coastline of Turkey. The war graves that lie outside of Europe are usually forgotten, though often carefully tended.

The question is, how can one honor the dead, while at the same time express anger at the horror, stupidity and insanity that caused them to die?

If I think of the first world war,  I think of my family: a foolish young boy who ran away at the age of about 14, and signed up. He  actually got shipped as far as France before somebody realized that he was a child, and shipped him home again. (It is said that so many of the English recruits were so debilitated through poor food and bad housing that most of them are actually unfit.) However, closer to the end of the war they were willing to take just about anyone and so the foolish boy went back and managed to get a body full of shrapnel. He survived, and came back a ‘hero’, married, had children, a job. He was well known as an amateur singer and general jolly soul. Until one day he woke up and he was unable to move his body from the neck down, completely paralyzed. The doctors worked out that the shrapnel had not been completely removed, and over the years it worked its way into the spinal column. And this is when his wife, my grandmother, received that wonderful utterly British phrase ‘I’m sorry it’s not our problem.’ Yes, the government decided that, for whole host of reasons that it concocted, the injuries were nothing to do with them, and they gave him what I like to call the ‘English Sorry.’ The ‘English Sorry’ is a way of apologizing that clearly contains no apology whatsoever and simply brushes you off. You hear it all the time when hospitals kill people, when gov’t departments ruin lives. The upshot of it is that my grandfather died a few years later, and his children were fatherless.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Europe, from 1914 to 1918 a young woman sat in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire sewing her trousseau and waiting for her fiancé to come home, but he never did. In the shock and horror of a disappointed life, she resigned herself to never getting married until eventually, relatively late in life, the family arranged a marriage for her and sent her halfway around the world to marry a stranger, my other grandfather, who had managed to sit out the war by going to a part of the planet so remote and strange the war barely touched it. Was she ever happy? It’s hard to say.

It’s hard for me to be proud of my grandfather’s role in the war, because it’s very clear to see he was as a foolish lad caught up in the glamour and excitement of it,  until he was trapped in it and it was too late. It’s hard to see any other picture. Bravery, courage, all of these things, yes, they’re all very well and they should be admired. But the force behind it, the warmongering, the imperialism, the rivalry brutality, the greed, stupidity, the hubris that arrogance, the violence, the perversion of science through the use of chemical weapons, everything bad about humanity can be seen in the first world war. What did we learn from it? Ee learned to be ever more brutal, more venal, stupid, more warmongering, we even found a newer and more clever way to do imperialism. It’s just sickening.

This year the British government decided to go all out and sponsor an expensive installation of the Tower of London to celebrate, if that’s the word, the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the first world war. I seen the picture of the installation, which is a vast field of ceramic poppies surrounding the most of the tower. It’s quite beautiful, but I feel quite reluctant to go and see it. For some people it might be a kind of place to remember and to seek some solace, but not for me. The tower is actually a very appropriate place to show something like this as it was for many years the seat of authority in the country, a place of brutality, treachery and execution. A moat full of blood is entirely appropriate to the kind of state that enthusiastically participated in the war. But for me that’s not the way to honor my grandfather and my great uncles and all the other hundreds of thousands perished or were wounded, who otherwise have their lives ruined. For me the best way to deal with it is simply to make a donation to Help for Heroes, so that a person alive today can hopefully have their life  improved a tiny bit.

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Art and Invisibility

A really important article from the Artfund website on the invisibility of Black British artists in the art history, by Eddie Chambers.

http://www.artfund.org/news/2014/11/03/the-hidden-history-of-black-british-artists

I have written on here more than once about the apparent lack of recognition of non-white artists in the  art world, so Chambers’s article is timely. He has also published a book Black Artists in British Art: A History from 1950 to the Present.

Last weekend I attended a discussion ‘Challenging White Supremacy Within The Media & Arts Industry’ presented by  sociologist Kehinde Andrews.* The first task was simply to acknowledge that white supremacy exits in the media & art world. I could list here too many instances and examples of how it operates, but let me offer just one.

I friend of mine approached a gallery owner to show them some work by another friend, a North African artist. She believed that the work was good and the gallerist might be interested in working with the artist. Now this happens all the time and the gallerist can have many reasons for accepting or declining an artist. But this one’s response was so utterly odd, it went something like : “Ah that is really good work. I like it very much. But I can’t really take him on: I already have an African.”

I already have an African????

Now let us unpick this. Does she mean

1/  “My clients are pretty racist and I find it very hard to sell art made by Black (and black-ish) people?”
2/ Or does she mean “There is only really space for 1 or 2 Black artists in this town and I have got my share already.”
Or even
3/ “Oooh, I don’t want to be associated too much with Them. Try a gallery that specialises in Blackness.”

I would argue 2 things:
– that all of the above are true
– that she does not think of herself as racist

It is very difficult because if ‘1’ is true, then it’s hard to argue that the gallerist should be a charity and take on the Black artist knowing she can not sell his work to her racist clients.

We need to have a big, huge, ongoing conversation about the white supremacy that permeates our cultural institutions. As I argued before, racism in the arts impoverishes the arts.

I have more to say about this. Especially on how our repositories of art (museums and national collections) are so deeply in bed with the dealers, like our gallerist, who serve the interests of private collectors  and reflect those collectors’ tastes rather than the national interest.

Eddie Chambers will be talking  about his book at Waterstones Piccadilly on the 14th Nov. Book a ticket by emailing piccadilly@waterstones.com

* It was part of the excellent TINAG festival at Bishopsgate Institute.

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Filed under Art-Related, rants + outrages